Chapter 1: Avernus Cathedral and the Hylden dimension
The glittering surfaces of the Sarafan armour could be seen from the ground, although attention was often drawn more by the fluttering banner of the order above the spires. With the motivation and moral of the men slowly slipping, this city was one of the last few havens for those who simply couldn't abandon their cause, for fanatical devotion or more financial reasons. After the slaughter of the circle at the hands of Vorador and the destruction of their best inquisitors by a demon, the order was slowly beginning to slip away. Rich merchants were less inquilines to do business with them now that it was commonplace knowledge the Order had failed. Without the backing of the rich kings of the east, particularly Willendorf, they were coming an ignored organisation.
Any knight patrolling the battlements who noticed the unusual number of bats in the air would have passed it off as night animals returning to their slumber in the Cathedral bell towers. The bats regrouped around the back of a spire and then came together, melding into a physical shape of a large, muscular man with a red drape over his shoulder and a long broadsword strapped across his back. Man, being only a descriptive word.
His claws sinking into the masonry, another set of talons swung around, sinking into the neck of a Knight just around the corner, silencing him before he could cry out. Kain tossed the Sarafan over his shoulder and watched as his form flew towards the ground, before he let go of the side of the Cathedral and dropped down to a battlement. As swift as a shadow, and before it was discovered that one of their number had fallen off the side of the building, the vampire flew along and inside a wooden door that lead into a separate room where some of the Priests went to change into their robes. Selves lined the walls, with many religious artefacts placed upon them. There were two doors leading out of here, one on the far side wall and the other to the left.
Crucifixes, white robes and a sword made out of silver used simply in ceremony, upon closer inspection is wasn't even sharp. What made humans believe that such trinkets actually worked? A crucifix? Two pieces of wood nailed together? How the hell was that supposed to stop them? Kain remembered one desperate villager that held one up to his son Dumah, who yawned, batted it aside and proceeded to tear him limb from limb.
Having already fed today, Kain saw no specific need to butcher Sarafan like he often did. That would alert the worshippers in the caverns below to his presence and the Hylden could very well seal their end of the porthole off. This errand would have to be done stealthily. Hearing footsteps coming from beyond a door at the far end of the room, Kain turned into a fine mist, becoming nearly completely invisible. Concealing himself just in a corner where his presence, in this tangible state, would not draw attention; the vampire stood stock still as an old man and a Sarafan Knight, the younger clad in a complete set of armour walked into the room arguing. The old man had a thin white heard and so many wrinkles it was hard to distinguish his facial characteristics.
"Look, I appreciate your position, but we just can't afford it any more." The older one argued, continuing their conversation as he stared to remove his white robe, his ordinary clothes underneath.
"This is treason old man." The knight said with a distinct hint of anger and disgust in his voice.
"We don't have enough room or food to accommodate five hundred soldiers." The priest snapped back, matching the knight's tone of voice despite his age.
"We can stay in the city, and as for food simply take it from the peasants."
"Famine has ravaged the land this year, if we take the food required to feed your men, half the population of this city will not survive the winter." The exited through the door on the left hand side of the room, the knight adding before they left…
Avernus Cathedral. I did not have too many found memories of this place. It was here I first discovered the Soul Reaver and fought one of the circle of nine during my misdirected quest, the guardian of Dimension; Azimuth the planer. She had raised all manner of demons in her madness, besetting the city and it's human populace in a mass slaughter.
I was grateful that it was unlikely I would have such difficultly here. Azimuth had not yet been born. Below this Cathedral were a set of ancient catacombs, within which I hoped to find the one thing that eluded me. A way to enter the realm that the ancients banished the Hylden into.
I had to be careful however. Without Meobius, the Elder God could no longer peer into time. But the Hylden on the other had could traverse the time stream any moment they wished. How they did so eluded me. I knew they were not aware of my presence here, or I would have a multitude of demons blocking my path by now.
I was severely annoyed at having to creep around Sarafan instead of battling straight through them, as was my natural instincts. But if blood was spilt in excessive amounts now, the Sarafan would lock this Cathedral down and the Hylden would instantly know where I was. So I curbed my hunger for violence…for now.
It took some careful inspection, but eventually I found my way down into the catacombs from behind the alter. I waited for about ten minutes, watching some of the acolyte monks go in and out when they thought the Sarafan guards wasn't looking.
The tunnels below Avernus were a maze, the rotting stench of death filling them to the brim, making even me shudder involuntarily as I entered. It seemed to stink even more in this earlier period than it did in the future.
Sticking to the shadows, and remembering the layout from my last trip here, I followed the tunnels down into the belly of the earth. My intuition, as usual, were correct. The cult had only just been founded, and the dark pit which was to hold their god was still under construction. A thick multitude of scaffolding descending up and down the entire chamber.
Azimuth had not yet transported my deformed son, Turel; to this period in history. I choose not to wait around until she did.
Just as I was preparing to explore, I froze, spotting another familiar figure from my past. Directing the construction of the chambers was my first benefactor, the one who had turned me into a vampire in the first place. Mortanious, the Necromancer. A pale skinned, dark haired man. At least as tall as me, and clad in red robs that trailed down behind him. His chest protected by a plate of bones it seemed. He looked different, but I knew it was him, even if he was to make some drastic fashion changes later on. As tempting as stopping for a chat was, I turned away from this gaze into the past and slid down to the side to the temporal empty pit.
It was here that I had emerged from the Hylden dimension first, having fought past a multitude of demons to get here. In the not too distant future, it had been full of rotting bodies. The leftovers of my…sons…meals. Now it was empty, so I began to ponder for a moment where that smell was coming from.
I decided against letting myself get distracted by little details, as I could not be sure how long the cult members would leave this place unguarded.
"Ah…" I began to myself, realizing that I overlooked one slight detail. I had absolutely no idea how to open the gateway. I had managed to escape that realm, so it stood to reason I should be able to enter it. However, I had neglected to note anything of interest the last time.
The Reaver buzzed and instinctively I drew it, examining the blade as it began to glow with the spirit energy it had absorbed that fateful night. For a brief moment, I could swear that in the hilt's empty eye sockets I could see familiarity. "Raziel…" I began, holding it up closer to my face. A steady glow began emanating in the eyes in response.
I could not tell if it was just coincidence, or that the firstborn's soul was still very much sentient inside the blade. Either way, the sword tugged itself towards the centre of the pit, dragging me alone behind it. Like a key fitting into a slot, the Reaver flew into the air before sinking into the ground, slowly turning in some strange stone device buried just below the soil. Eventually, I took hold of the hilt and wrenched it free. But just before I did, a wild spark emanated in the air just ahead, spiralling around and around in a bright green vortex. It took a few minutes to stabilise, but after it did it looked large enough for me to simply walk through it.
I had done some research in the ruins of the vampires before coming here. While the Pillars, the lock that held the Hylden in that dimension to the south west; it was here that the banishment actually took place. Buried underneath the Cathedral was a set of complex vampiric technology, used to literally rip the presence of the Hylden from the world.
"Hell have no fury." I stated quietly to myself with a little smile, before sheathing my sword across my back again and marching straight towards this doorway. I was instantly reminded of Janos Audron during my final battle with the Sarafan lord. Still week, Janos attacked the leader of the Sarafan; hoping to buy me enough time to retrieve the Soul Reaver. His effort was rewarded, but in the process, the Sarafan lord cast him down into that dark realm.
As I reached the vortex edge, I was literally ripped off my feet and sucked into it's centre, hurled down a narrow tunnel of swirling green and black light. An intense nausea instantly came over me, that had nothing to do with the spinning environment around me. The trip could have lasted any amount of time, but at some point it ended and I landed roughly on my feet.
And so I arrived at that place of banishment the Hylden called home. One look at it, and I could see exactly why they were so desperate to escape. It was a bleak, desolate place with a sickly green sky, thin white mist like cloud hanging in the air. Physically speaking, it was very much like Nosgoth. Gravity still held me to the floor, there was still a sky above my head and from the ridge I had emerged on, I could see blinking green lights in the distance. Presumably a Hylden settlement. Looking around, I could see I had emerged on the side of a mountain range stretching far beyond my own sight. Down below, I couldn't actually see a bottom. Only a thick blanket of green cloud whiting maybe a short leap of a very long drop.
I reminded myself that I could not spend unlimited amounts of time here. Prolonged exposure to this realm warped ones physical and mental state. Once the Hylden themselves had been fair of form and logical thinkers. Now they were depraved, insane monsters. I had no intention of becoming like that. Well…not more so than I already was.
As it was the only distinct thing around here in this strange, unnerving place; I decided to head to the settlement. Dissipating into bats, I carried myself across the stretch of misty wasteland towards it. From above, I could see a warped wilderness filled with demons, some hunting each other. Giant insect like monsters wielding lighting were picking off smaller ones, devouring them whole.
Others were towering and goat-like with blood red fur and they seemed to rein unchallenged, apart from the giant black ones that burned everything that came before them.
These creatures were native to this realm and the Hylden obviously trained them to be hound dogs of sorts, with the express purpose of sinking their talons and fangs into my flesh.
Arriving at the settlement, I found the architecture just as I remembered it from my days in Meridian. Stone work mixed with metal, green lines of energy running between it. Glyph energy, used by the second Sarafan order to power all of their capital city. This stuff, if used in the right way, was not vampire friendly. I was more than likely to encounter the odd Ward gate here as well.
Sliding in my mist form between two large stretches of metal, I discovered that this settlement was actually the start of a very large, industrialized city. Large enough to put even Meridian to shame. it's expanse never seemed to end. From the tops of buildings, I could see Hylden down in the streets. All busy, working, guarding and performing other duties unknown to me. It seemed, despite their ever present insanity they had managed to maintain a working society. I could tell by the looks on their warped faces however, that they were far from enjoying themselves here.
Mechanical constructs which I learned were called…robots…patrolled the city itself. They were simply triangular devices with side arms that spat some sort of Hylden magic. They acted on their own, serving as a kind of peace keeping force. At the moment, they all seemed to be heading to one place. A large towering structure just in the distance. Arched like vultures talons, with thick green lines running through it. I had seen similar constructions at the hidden city; a towering city I explored during my fledgling youth. This one however, dwarfed all others I had seen.
I saw opportunity knocking.
If the Cure for vampirism was anywhere, then it had to be there. Sliding down to the ground, I grabbed some unfortunate Hylden and dragged him back into the shadows before he could so much as gasp. Sating my hunger on his blood, I dumped the drained body in a quiet corner where I estimated none of his kind would find him for a good few hours.
The Reaver buzzed, hungry and irritated at a missed meal.
"The next one, I promise." It replied to it, tapping it's hilt before vanishing to explore more of this strange place.